College Counseling & Planning      Orleans, MA. (774) 801-2449      Ashland, OR. (541) 488-0919
The last year or two of high school is extremely stressful, thinking about colleges, tests, scholarships, etc. Jan has made...more
--Andrew Cataldo, Gonzaga University, 2012

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HOW IMPORTANT IS A CAMPUS VISIT? (2)With Spring Break around the corner, and families fanning out in all directions, itís a great opportunity for juniors to visit college campuses.

The importance of visiting college campuses cannot be over emphasized. Brochures, catalogues, presentations by college representatives, guidance counselors and videos can help to form an opinion of a school, but a visit allows you to see first hand the environment and evaluate the academics, athletics, housing, and the social life of that school. Seeing for your self offers the best insight of all. It is not uncommon for a student to think that a college is right for them based on all the promotional literature, but then find that it is not right fit. Better to find that out before you arrive in the fall with your bags and books in hand.

There are two kinds of visits: one is the ďdrive-byĒ informal visit and the second is the more formal visit including a tour, information session, interview, class visit and maybe an overnight stay. The first is the type of visit that can begin early in the college search. The summer time and spring break are ideal times. This type of visit can be made without a lot of hype and pressure and does not have to be the college to which the student will eventually apply. With a little planning the visit can be a welcome side trip off the expressway during a vacation with the opportunity to walk around, see the facilities, eat in the cafeteria and visit the bookstore. This can be a very low-key, non-stress way of experiencing many different colleges and universities for the whole family, including younger siblings. You also can take advantage of campus tours and information sessions. The differences between campuses will soon become clear to all. If you are not able to travel long distances to visit this is an ideal way to get the feel of a small liberal arts school in a small town or rural area or a large metropolitan university with the city for a campus.

The second type of visit is more appropriate for seniors who have narrowed down the list of schools. It is best to visit when the college is in session and students are on campus. The visit should include a campus information session, a campus tour, time to wander around the campus, perhaps a campus interview if the college provides the opportunity and if possible an overnight stay. Many colleges offer this option only in the senior year and not on weekends. In any case, I recommend parents encourage their student to go off on his or her own to investigate the campus. A third option is to wait until the student is accepted to a college in April, but this can be very hectic and expensive since decisions have to be made by May 1st.

A campus visit not only will help to narrow down the choices but it can have benefits such as acting as a real motivator for the student to do well academically as well as in extracurricular activities. It will give a clearer picture about the college environment and it can act as an ideal opportunity for parents and students to talk about this very important decision.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants